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GAO discussed the status of the Air Force's B-2 bomber aircraft program. GAO noted that: (1) the Department of Defense (DOD) proposed increasing B-2 production rates although it would not be able to test critical B-2 capabilities for at least several years; (2) B-2 contractors are not generally meeting manufacturing goals and continue to experience significant problems in reducing labor hours, defects, engineering changes, and work completion problems, increasing the risk that they will not achieve predicted efficiencies at higher production rates; (3) the B-2 flight test program has not progressed as planned because of late or incomplete aircraft deliveries, unplanned diagnostic tests, and the need to fix aircraft cracks; (4) DOD reduced its planned B-2 procurement from 127 to 70 production aircraft, citing the need to reduce overall defense budgets and changing defense needs; and (5) the B-2 funding commitment remained substantial and the concurrency level remained problematic in spite of the procurement reduction. GAO believes that the unconventional nature of the B-2 design, the development experience of other weapons systems, and the amount of testing yet to be accomplished support the need to make a minimum B-2 production commitment.

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